SPANISH police have arrested 43 people who were smuggling toxic electrical waste from the Canary Islands to Africa.
Amongst the 5 tonnes of waste were electrical materials destined to be melted down rather than disposed of safely.
The criminals loaded maritime containers with old vehicle parts, household goods, and a huge amount of electrical waste and electronic equipment.
Investigators say that the electronics were shipped to several African countries to be sold as scrap metal.
Police discovered five ‘clandestine’ facilities dedicated to the illegal management of waste throughout Gran Canaria. Hazardous waste electrical equipment (WEEE) was collected, stored, handled and loaded to be transported to African countries, mainly Mauritania, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal from the port of La Luz in the capital of Gran Canaria.
Investigators in Las Palmas seized more than 300 tonnes of waste and 14 containers that were ready for transport. They found that over the past two years, 331 container-loads had been shipped, and an estimated €1.5 million was made from the scheme.
Documents had been forged to show fake origins and destinations for the goods, which were labelled as ‘second hand’.
Under Spanish and EU law, electronic devices – particularly fridges – must be disposed of properly by licenced businesses.
They can contain cadmium, mercury, lead, arsenic, oils, gases and other harmful substances.
The Guardia Civil said that back yard operations in developing countries use open fires to melt down old electrical equipment to extract aluminum and copper.
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